Rita O'Grady (Sally Hawkins) is married, a mom of two kids and works as a sewing machinist at Ford's campus. She sews seats in a sleazy cavernous room that is too hot and with a leaky roof. The women's union representative Albert (Bob Hoskins) wants to make things better for them. Connie (Geraldine James), one of the co-worker and a shop steward, also believes that change can be achieved. In one of the meetings with the management, Albert and the plant's union chief, Monty (Kenneth Cranham) takes Rita to discuss various concessions for woman (only in the vaguest terms).
She was taken to simply nod in agreement to whatever takes place. But Rita is not kind of woman who could be sorted out. She takes out upholstery samples from her purse the gents to go ahead and sew up the pieces into a proper car seat. The big wigs are baffled. She announces a one-day strike, which eventually turns into a long-term strike that shuts down the plant – very much to the annoyance of the men (Rita's husband works in Ford). They demand equal pay and part of their protest is because of classification of women as "unskilled workers" in order to keep their wages low. Soon, Ford sends an American representative to bring down the strike and cause panic.
Although the movie is based upon real incident, the protagonist Rita is a composite of several real-life people. You can see many of the real women strikers (now in their 70s), briefly interviewed under the closing credits. Director Nigel Cole has managed to keep things relatively light-hearted without ever losing sight of the serious issues involved. He brilliantly imparts the camaraderie of the women, who sense that the tide of change is on their side despite their years of subservience to men at home.
The screenplay by William Ivory has all the usual plot devices (monologues, conflicts, villainous corporate guys) but also injects real warmth into each of the scenes. The dialogues are mostly kept down-to-earth. The management meeting is one of the key scene. In that, the old union-man, Monty says to Industrial-relations Head, Hopkins (Rupert Graves) that slow change is fine, because who really knows what’s in these women’s heads? -- while, Rita, who was commanded to keep quiet, slowly utters the word “Bollocks!” From there, the movie is a reckless ride.
The cast for "Made in Dagenham" is perfect. Sally Hawkins emits a mix of vulnerability and thumping optimism as Rita. She conveys or mostly lives the emotional subtleties of Rita's courage, guilt, perseverance and resilience. Rosamund Pike as the Oxford-educated Lisa, who just happens to be married to Hopkins, is equally good and brings out the feeling of what it's like to be underestimated and unappreciated by men.
Made In Dagenham depicts an interesting bit of history with pluck and charm. Everything about the film is predictable but thanks to a wonderful female cast, it is entertaining as well as heartfelt.
Made in Dagenham -- IMDb